The Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast is an important area of study of basaltic volcanism.
The Giant's Causeway is a unique example of columnar jointing with some 40,000 interlocking basalt columns resulting from a volcanic eruption. The tops of the mostly hexagonal columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Along the coast, a succession of lava flows from the Tertiary era can be distinguished.
Community Perspective: Northern Ireland's most popular attraction and a natural playground for visitors. The area with the ‘steps’ is compact but you can spend hours hiking along the coast. The fairly recent visitor centre can set you up with an audio guide.
Map of Giant's CausewayLoad map
I visited Giant's Causeway in the spring of 2017 by driving half the island of Eire from Dublin to see the unique natural phenomenon. The Causeway is the result of volcanic activity dating back 50-to-60 million of years. The cooling lava shaped itself over time as several clusters of basalt columns of differing height, each no more than a couple of feet in diameter. Most of the columns are hexagonal in shape, but the number of sides can vary between four and eight. In their mass, they look precisely like a causeway for getting into – or out of – the sea. Local legends ascribed its creation to the mythological giant Finn McCool, who was challenged to a fight by an unfriendly giant from Scotland and needed to build a way across the sea for the two of them to meet. Hence, the Giant’s Causeway. On the Scottish island of Staffa there are similar basalt columns, corroborating the folklore. The lively audioguide issued to every paying visitor gets a lot of play out of the legend.
The core of the site, where those basalt clusters are concentrated, is relatively compact, but the surrounding coastal area has miles of trails to explore and offers plenty of other rock formations of interest, from Giant's Boot to Giant's Organ. Budget three to four hours for a proper exploration of the site. If the weather is good, you may decide to extend your stay. It is a unique and incredible site, capable of impressing even a relative nonadmirer of natural wonders.
The visitor center, opened just a few years ago, is a pretty amazing structure built into the curves of the terrain. It is technically just a gateway to the World Heritage site, not part of the site itself, but worth checking out.
Giant’s Causeway is situated on the northern coast of the Emerald Isle. It is more than three hours away by car from Dublin, which has to be at the outer edge for a comfortable day trip for most people. From Belfast and most locations in Northern Ireland, it is only about an hour away.
Read more from Ilya Burlak here.
Giant's Causeway, in Northern Ireland, exceeds expectations. This geologic formation of hexagonal basalt columns extending into the ocean is a natural playground for visitors, and I had a great time exploring the rocks in September 2015. The same volcanic processes that created these columns also created similar rock formations on the island of Staffa off the west coast of Scotland, and Irish legend has tied the two together with folk tales. On the Irish side, Giant's Causeway is located at the bottom of a hill on the north coast, and when I approached in late afternoon, the waves were crashing loudly against the rocks. The columns spike up at varying levels, creating an uneven surface upon which to walk, but from above, the hexagons appear rather like a giant gameboard for Settlers of Catan. I thoroughly enjoyed spending a couple of hours wandering to and from the ocean along the rock columns, and I am glad Northern Ireland has such a fine location as its only entry on the World Heritage Site list. This is a landscape not to be missed!
Logistics: Giant's Causeway can be reached by a combination of train or bus from either Belfast or Londonderry, but it may be more easily reached by private transportation.
I visited the Giant's Causeway as a daytrip by train and bus from (London)derry via Coleraine. You arrive at a huge new visitor centre, and then you can set off to explore the formations on your own or with a guide (quite useful for the background info on the history, nature and geology). I was lucky to visit on a warm and sunny September day, and really enjoyed walking along the shore, admiring the rock formations and tidepools, and of course climbing on some of the rocks. Derry is quite an interesting and historic city, and the train ride along the Antrim coast is really beautiful, plus you can see lots of birds of all types. When you happen to enjoy good weather, this is definitely a fantastic site.
i visited this site in 2010 and thought it was a remarkable experience, the rock formations are just so intriguing and wonderful. i did the 6km walk & the walk across the old wooden bridge and i thought that it was the best thing I've ever experience. if you are into geology & history this place is define lay the place for you.
I visited this WHS this Summer 2012 by car on a splendid sunny day. I went there early before the crowds and I was practically alone, climbing the hexagonal basalt rocks close to the sea. The Audioguide from the Visitor Centre is very informative and quite interesting. I did the whole trekking trail to The Organ and right to The Chimney where I spotted several Fulmars and Kittiwakkes nesting on the cliffs. The Antrim Coast and Causeway Road are very scenic and on the way back I stopped several times to take incredible pictures. Visit the small fishing towns along the coast for some good food and a pleasant atmosphere.
The Giant's Causeway might not be the best-known WHS, but it really is a classic. Already in the late 19th century, it was a tourist site, luring visitors with its exceptional natural beauty. Its peculiar volcanic features have been the center of a scientific debate between Volcanists (who claimed that it was the result of volcanic eruptions) and Neptunists (who pointed to the crystallization of seawater), and still attract geologists from all over the world. Before science, the stones were part of a legend, in which the Irish Giant Finn Maccool built the Causeway as stepping-stones to Scotland to meet his rival Giant Benandonner. And the Causeway was part of the first batch of UK WHS, which means that it was selected earlier than landmarks like Westminster and the Tower of London.
In 2008 the Causeway Coast still is Northern Ireland's most popular tourist attraction. I visited on a stormy Saturday in February when there were about 100 other people scattered around the site. The stretch of coast included in the WHS is about 6 km long. I did the circular walk, starting along the ridge and returning via the road near the coast. This way the most spectacular area (the polygonal basalt blocks) is at the end of the tour. The walking itself is a pleasure also, as you see many other volcanic features along the way. The stormy weather made the waves of the Atlantic Ocean bump into the black rocks with much noise and splatter.
A remarkable thing is that there is no entrance fee to the site. Near the parking lot, there are only some souvenir shops and a building by the National Trust, which owns the area. There have been a lot of discussions last year about whether a private company was allowed to take over. It was decided against, but I hope the National Trust will make more of it than what it has now and produce a really good visitor center. There are so many stories to tell about this site.
All of Britain's natural World Heritage sites contain coastlines, but this is perhaps the most unique and recognisable of them all. We had a lovely day trip here from Belfast and the whole of the County Antrim coast was very impressive.
The Causeway itself is fairly small, consisting of three small peninsulas of the incredible polygonal columns, these are really impressive and the most accessible and concentrated group of its kind. Everyone that visits seems to climb all over them, and I must admit I had great fun clambering up and down, using the columns as steppingstones.
One interesting aspect about the inscription is that ICOMOS recommended that the site should also be included as a cultural heritage site, due to its role in Irish Legend and also the influence it had on the European Romantic movement. This was never acted on, I guess it is a political decision as it would have meant extending the site to include similar rock formations in Scotland, thus removing the one solely Northern Irish site on the list.
As I said we visited on a day trip from Belfast (a really interesting city oozing with contemporary history), which was a nice easy way to get there. However there are plenty of ways to get to the Causeway from many different locations. The east Antrim coast was especially nice with lots of small fishing villages, which would provide great places to stay for a few nights of rest. Just around the coast from the Causeway is Royal Portrush Golf Course, regarded as one of the finest courses in the world, and it would be a real treat to get in 18 holes on this lovely piece of coastline.
The Causeway was a nice place to visit and worthy of its inclusion on the list.
After attending a business conference on western Ireland i couldn’t wait to get myself on a bus up to Northern Ireland and the famous Giants Causeway coast line - Northern Irelands only World Heritage Site and a remarkable piece of nature scenery that I’ve been interested in visiting for quite some time.
Spending the day on the bus from Galway to Londonderry and then by train to Colerain on the Northern coast gave me a thorough view of the famous green Irish landscape and the small villages along the way. And when the bus passed the northwestern mountains, with its snow covered peaks, my thoughts went immediately to the Lords of the Ring. And it would not have surprised me a bit if a couple of hobs had hopped on the bus….or maybe the actually did…?
A twenty-minute taxi-ride took ne from Colerain station straight to the Causeway Hotel, opened in 1836 and located right by the coastline cliffs. If you ever decide to visit the Causeway, the Causeway Hotel is an absolute must and just as classical in its own Northern Irelandish way, as Raffels in Singapore or The Ritz in London.
The actual World Heritage Causeway Coast runs further down towards Belfast and includes quite a lot more than the areas north of Bushmill where I went. But it is on the other hand here where you find the classical part and probably the most beautiful and dramatic scenery. It is also here you will find the famous symmetrical, honeycomb-like columns of dark rock called basalt that descends from the base of the high cliffs into the water. There is an old Irish legend that tells of the Irish giant Finn MacCool who challenged Bennandonner, a Scottish giant for a fight. But since there was no boat large enough to carry the Scottish giant, Finn MacCool built a causeway of gigantic stones so that the Scottish giant could travel on dry land. Whether you decide to believe the legend or the scientific explanation its up to you…
Walking along the windy Giants Causeway coast makes you realise the power and magnificence of nature. And regardless of your latest career move you are reduced into the small and insignificant human being we all are in the end. And if the Causeway Coast does not exhaust you, why not take the opportunity to drive down to the nearby village of Bushmill and visit the whiskey distillery and down a well-earned glass from the oldest whiskey distillery in the world.
My daughter & I visited in May 2003. It is an incredible experience. We arrived late in the day so missed visiting the information center but the causeway itself was fabulous and worth every minute getting there. Walking along the coast and climbing the stones allows you to imagine the impact on the lives of all who live & lived near here. Photos don't give you half the idea of how phenominal this site is.
John A. Wilcox
I visited the Giant's Causeway near Christmas of 2001. Not only was there few people around during that time but what made the experience that much more exciting was that it felt that you were the only person there in a mystical experience between you, the ocean and old Gaelic memories.
It is a bit of a walk up and down from the visitor's centre, but the only time I would recommend it would be when the buses are not running full of tourists.
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